Karen Sloan of the National Law Journal reported recently that the year-over-year number of LSAT takers rose by 20% in the 2017-17 cycle. Since that portends an increase in law school applications as well, that’s good news for law schools, some of whom have struggled in the last few years with declining admission numbers and declining standards for remaining admissions.
It’s moderately bad news for applicants, who—at least compared to the last few years—are likely to face a more competitive admissions
market. That effect may be dulled somewhat if law schools respond by increasing their class size a bit but still, the market will be somewhat less favorable for applicants.
The less favorable market for applicants means that it’s more important to get your best LSAT score and assemble your best application package. Otherwise, you are likely to see fewer opportunities for admission and financial aid that you would have just a few years ago.
That much is obvious. What’s less obvious is why the numbers have increased so sharply, so quickly. Ms. Sloan hypothesizes a “Trump bump” but who knows. And it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that it’s hard to believe that 20% more people have suddenly investigated law school and a legal career and have decided that it’s a great idea. It’s quite likely that some of the increase is the result of a whim (or some kind of bump, if you will).
I always advise potential clients, sometimes to my financial detriment, to have a clear idea of why they want to go to law school, and an equally clear idea of the benefits (and drawbacks) of a legal career. With few exceptions, law school tuition is flat between schools, that is, you’ll pay almost the same amount for a law school which will provide significant career opportunities than from one that, well, doesn’t. A recent report on Ohio law schools shows how dangerous that can be. A lot of law school graduates are scuffling with high debt and, to say the least, not the income they expected.
I am a big booster of legal education and a career as a lawyer. They are extremely valuable, both for lawyers and society at large. But they’re not for everybody. Nor are they easy. Nor do you want to do most of your work just to pay off your student loan debt. So, you want to understand what legal careers are like and be pretty sure that that is what you want. If it is, then you want to do the smart things that will minimize your debt and maximize your opportunities—strengthen your grade point average if you’re still in college, do the best test preparation you can do, and produce a compelling application package, so that you’ll be in a position to trade off and negotiate financial aid and opportunity.
by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on February 17, 2019.